CATH NEWS REPORT: Australia's major churches met at a national forum in Canberra yesterday to launch the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, urging for gambling reform, said a report on the Christian Today Australia website.
President of the Uniting Church and Forum Chair, the Reverend Alistair Macrae, said that Australians spent $12 billion on poker machines in 2008-09.Senior representatives from the Uniting, Catholic, Baptist and Anglican churches and The Salvation Army attended, along with senior representatives from the church-based social services peak bodies. Existing state Church gambling taskforces were also represented.
"Only 600,000 Australians play poker machines on a weekly basis. But 15 per cent of these regular
gamblers are problem gamblers, and account for 40 per cent of expenditure on the pokies. These gamblers are estimated by the Productivity Commission to lose on average $21,000 each year.
"Three quarters of people classified as severe problem gamblers play poker machines.
"The social costs are high – relationship breakdown, mental health issues, unemployment, debt and financial hardship, theft and social isolation. These costs are estimated at $4.7 billion a year.
"The rot has to stop. If a club or hotel can only exist on the back of problem gambling spending and it's huge human cost, it is not a viable business.
"Gambling is a product that causes a problem for 30 per cent of regular users. This is not a benign product. It is a dangerous product for many.
"The Australian Churches want to see measures which, if people choose to gamble, will help people to do more safely.
The churches support a national pre-commitment scheme mandatory in all gaming machine venues, because it "focuses regulation on machines and venues and requires gamblers to choose and stick to their own gambling limit".
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the president of Clubs Australia, Peter Newell, will today launch a broadside attack on ''nanny state'' poker machine reforms, warning of club closures and job losses if the scheme proceeds.